The Degeneration of Modern Worship Music

What is happening to worship music in the last 1o years?

Many modern worship songs are no longer about bringing praise and glory to God.

Many modern worship songs are no longer about theological truth taken off the pages of Scripture.

Unfortunately, much of modern worship music is a copy-cat of the tunes and cliché phrases in current pop music.  Thanks to Gabe Bogdan, check out the worship song below:

“I can feel your presence here with me

Suddenly I’m lost within your beauty

Caught up in the wonder of your touch

Here in this moment, I surrender to your love”

That is a far cry from theologically correct worship as in the song “Lord I Lift Your Name on High” from just 25 years ago:

“You came from heaven to earth 
To show the way 
From the earth to the cross 
My debt to pay 
From the cross to the grave 
From the grave to the sky 
Lord, I lift Your name on high”

Even without hearing the “lost within your beauty” song, it reads much like a teen pop song, the kind that rolls at 140 bpm and sets the stage for lust…

Speaking of lust… Let us define lust…Webster’s dictionary defines lust as “intense or unbridled sexual desire.” Then what would be the purpose of the following lyrics in Jesus Culture’s “I am in love with you” song?

“Everyday my heart is in lust for You, So I will abandon myself to You”

Such songs do not describe the “Holy, Holy, Holy” God of Isaiah 6, but a god of lust, a god of personal relationships, and a god of emotions.  That is not my God.

The Triune God of the Bible will not receive the worship of “strange fire” brought about by compromising the message of praise and worship with lyrical content from the world.

Instead we will continue to delight in songs such as this one:

O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

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Could Jesus Culture Be More Popular Than Jesus Christ?

Following a provocation by Todd Friel from “Wretched” (here)I dared to Google “Jesus C” and observe the prompt choices that come up. The first choice in my browser’s search bar was “Jesus Culture” followed by “Jesus Christ.”

Through no fault of their own, at least by this metric, the band Jesus Culture has become more searchable and popular than Jesus Christ. Many young Christians are aware of who they are and probably listen to their worship music.  Jesus Culture is way bigger then Hillsong was in their prime (early to mid 2000’s) or any other worship band.  Ever.

They are part of the New Apostolic Reformation charismatic movement out of Redding, CA based at Bill Johnson’s church, whose theology is very focused on the mandate given to the 12 disciples in Matthew 10:  heal the sick, raise the dead and exorcise the demon-possessed.  That, and also establish God’s kingdom in Redding.

The question is why are they so popular? I’ve done some research on this including attending their conference in Los Angeles (mostly out of curiosity) and try to analyze this phenomenon. I personally believe that a pure gospel message based on the cross would not bring a band to this level of popularity.

The music is well done from an artistic stand point but this alone does not explain it. While many of their songs do have an uplifting message (some are not written by them), the lyrics are mostly your usual modern worship lyrics centered on what God does for us, and NOT Who God is… So the lyrics do not necessarily explain the Jesus Culture phenomenon.

The answer is that Jesus Culture popularity has to do with the package they have become.

1. In their interviews and concerts they are focused on promoting “deep encounters” with God and experimental trance-like scenarios built around receiving power and baptism with fire. At the Los Angeles concert they performed a maneuver where after a 10 minute instrumental and light show build-up to a climax, everything suddenly stopped, the crowd went nuts and received power on command from the speaker who declared “receive it, receive it, receive it.” This transfer of power is practiced in the “tunnel of fire” at their church as well. Wild expressions of ecstasy on command from the speaker were common throughout the event.

2. They advertise “new experience” when attending their conferences. This makes them highly attractive for those who seek this type of physical stimulation of the senses. We live in a world which loves sensational experiences, and Jesus Culture provides that. For example vocalist Kim Walker’s testimony of her physical/metaphysical encounter with Jesus is astounding (here, starting at minute 28). It sounds like a description of a scene from a badly made 80’s movie, where she hugs Jesus and presses Him to answer how much He loves her, and whether she was really meant to be a girl and not a boy.  For comparison… a look back at the encounter Paul had with Jesus on the way to Damascus which left him as dead, reveals a completely different type of encounter than the one experienced by Kim.

3. Another reason for their popularity is the fact that their message and conferences have nothing to do with repentance, the new birth, and the cross. Instead the message is focused on power. Power to perform miracles, heal the sick, raise the dead, etc. That is attractive! It makes the followers feel good, and it empowers them, but  in a misleading way.

So, the question will come up… Should we listen to this music because after all, the sound or the lyrics are not different from Hillsong and Gateway?

Can one can separate the recording from the band’s theology and practice, and be edified by songs with a biblical message like “There is power in the name of Jesus to break every chain…?”  One has to use his discerning ability and decide for himself.  I will personally never attend another Jesus Culture event, and I will warn the youth about their practices.

But if you really love this music and want to listen to it, I strongly caution you not to get sucked into the bad theology and mystical practice of Jesus Culture.

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Bill Johnson, Jesus Culture, Glory Cloud, and Mysticism

I will not write off the entire charismatic movement because I believe there are authentic Christians who attend these churches, but I will focus on non-biblical practices in this movement which seem to be in line with mysticism.  One such ritual is the observance of the presence of God in the “glory cloud” at Bill Johnson’s church in Redding, CA, the home base of the hugely popular band Jesus Culture.

In the first video, as the Jesus Culture band plays “Show Me Your Glory” the crowd is fixated on the lights in the ceiling waiting for the “glory cloud…” and it appears at minute 1:45.  Please observe and decide if that is the presence of God…

The next video is a short documentary on Bill Johnson and the “glory cloud” phenomenon at Bethel in Redding, CA.

Let us go back to the Bible and reflect on some passages that tell us about the presence of God and the what truly happens when God “shows up,” and then we can compare such descriptions with what we see in these videos.

Isaiah 6  

1 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost…”

Exodus 19

16 On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled17 Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. 18 Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the Lord had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly19 And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder.

Exodus 20

18 Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off 19 and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.

Revelation 1

16 In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. 17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.

The point I am trying to make is that when God truly shows up in a physical way like Bill Johnson claims, THERE WILL BE SERIOUS CONSEQUENCES.  Holy men like John fell “as though dead” in the physical presence of the Lord.  Isaiah said “woe to me” and temple’s foundations shook.  Israel could not bear to hear God’s voice and stand in the presence of God “lest we die.”

And Bill Johnson is trying to convince us that the “glory cloud” made of glitter and fanned by the air conditioning is a sign and wonder of the presence of God?

The Pro Life Movement as a Civil Rights Movement

The Pro Life movement has been invigorated in recent years like never before.  It is now moving in the direction of the Civil Rights movement, that is a Right to Life cause, despite the fact that abortion legality is here to stay.

The line has been drawn in the sand 40 years ago, but as the Bible tells us, in the last days we are seeing an increasing separation between good and evil.  The contrast has never been greater on the issue of the unborn, primarily because many young people are beginning to see the evil of abortion that their parents ignored.

Many of the staunched feminists of the Roe v Wade era have passed, and the new wave of abortionist feminism is not nearly as dedicated to their cause as the previous generation.  The recent TIME Magazine article on this topic explains the reasons for it.

But the mainstream media will not let you hear of it.

At the superficially covered ‘March for Life’ event in Washington this week where 500,000 pro lifers participated, there was a higher percentage of young people compared to previous marches.  These Christians have made their stand for the fundamental right to life.  And all the pro-life websites are taking notice.

So are the politicians.

Senator Rand Paul (Presbyterian) spoke at the rally and said:

“I have a question for those who don’t respect and won’t protect life: Can a nation long endure that does not respect the sanctity of life?”

“Can a nation conceived in liberty carry its head high if it denies protection to the youngest and most vulnerable of its citizens? Can a country founded on God-given rights continue to thrive without understanding that life is a precious gift from our Creator?”

He called for this new generation to be part of a great “revival” for the country centered on justice and compassion, seeing the present state of the nation as being in moral peril.

I have seen this polarization in my medical career.  I have NEVER met a doctor in my generation who specializes in abortion.  All the abortion doctors I know are from the previous generation, and they are about to retire.  In fact many of them are way past the retiring age because the system NEEDS them and will not let them retire.

New doctors coming out of med school do not want to do abortions.  Many find it morally wrong, but most find it absolutely hideous.  The idea is absolutely physically repulsive and is in stark contrast with our committment to healing.  We will not become a tool of the abortionist activist movement.

There is a song by Jesus Culture ( 😉 ) called ‘Break Every Chain’ that talks about an army rising up in the name of Jesus to proclaim the power that is in the name of Jesus.  This young generation of believers may be the ones to finally match the abortionist’s activism… but do it in the name of Jesus.

Roe v Wade will not be overturned.  But the fight to limit it at the state and federal level is intensifying.  On the spiritual front the fight is the fiercest it has ever been.

Could we be seeing the beginning of a new spiritual revival… possibly the last one before Christ’s return?

image credit: Drew Angerer/The New York Times